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The Arts logoThis year, the NICHD Scientific Retreat Organizing Committee launched an image competition, with images judged entirely on image quality and as works of art. This was a departure from most NIH image contests of the past, which were almost always based in part on the scientific merit of the image. 

Many great images were submitted, which made choosing a winner difficult. Everyone involved hopes the contest will continue in years to come, and so we thought it would be good to break down the criteria used in selecting an image.

The judges for the image competition were deemed by the committee to have an “excellent eye for aesthetics” based on experience working with images in their work and hobbies. The judges included Paul Williams, communications director for NICHD, Dr. Harsha Mahabaleshwar, postdoctoral fellow and hobbyist painter in the Chitnis lab, and myself, Jeremy Swan, an avid photographer and “Bioviz Specialist” at NICHD. We were charged with selecting the most appealing image and a runner-up image from 17 entries.

The criteria that we discussed in selecting the image included composition, color palate, size and resolution, subject, overall image quality, and whether diagrammatic numbers or labels made the image look more like a figure than art. The images were printed at their native resolution and reviewed in a meeting.

The judges unanimously selected Greg (aka Graham) Marquart’s (Burgess Lab) submission “18 fish in 1” as the winner. He had a chance to describe the image during the retreat. The image is also being used in the “2016 NIH CFC Directors’ Challenge – The Beauty of Science – art from the IC-D.” Dr. Carson Miller from Dr. Todd Macfarlan’s lab submitted the runner-up image.

Click the images below to view larger.

Greg Marquart's winning image, described below

WINNER: Greg Marquart, Burgess Lab

18 Fish in 1: Expression patterns from 18 larval zebrafish show distinct subsets of neurons within the brain. Individual larvae are imaged on a confocal microscope, and the resulting volumes are aligned into the same three-dimensional space.

Carson Miller's runner-up image, described below

RUNNER-UP: Carson Miller, PhD, Macfarlan Lab

Cross-section of an embryo reprogrammed by DOX-induced expression of Neurogenin2, Lhx3, and Islet1 transcription factors. In vivo administration of DOX to pregnant mice at E14.5 induces Lhx3 expression (red) across nearly the entire embryo. In response, a motor neuron reporter gene, Mnx1::GFP (green), is ectopically expressed in multiple tissue types in addition to normal expression in the dorsal neural tube. DAPI counterstain, blue.

Dr. Harsha Mahabaleshwar's painting, described below

"Bossman in his Den," a painting of Dr. Ajay Chitnis hard at work, by image contest judge Dr. Harsha Mahabaleshwar